Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Feliz Cumpleaños Nati!

Sunday we celebrated my favorite little girl's 4th birthday. I hadn't been to the hogar (home) for about two weeks, so it was great to have some fun with the girls again. We ate cake, I learned some new dance moves from one of the girls (pretty sure I also ripped my jeans) and I finally got to give Nati the dress that's been sitting in my closet since May. She was all smiles and it was great to see her back to her old talkative self. 

My cake! It turned out OK, but quite the story of how I made it.

Love her.

Monday, September 24, 2012

La Primavera con Cristo

Last weekend (September 16) I got to experience Primavera con Cristo, a day-long retreat for young people in our department of Itapúa. After having (for the most part) a great time at Congreso I was legitimately excited to go to Primavera con Cristo. Plus, I've been feeling like my faith and focus on God has been slipping a little bit from where it once was, so I thought this would be a great energizer. And, Maria Jose said it was just a one day retreat (8 to 2). Finally a short retreat, or so I thought.

If I could only choose one word to sum up my feelings/experience of Primavera con Cristo it would be suffering. Just a heads up, this post probably doesn't paint me in the best light, but I wanted to be honest, so here it is.

Although our retreat started at 8ish in the morning what I didn't realize was that it was in a town five hours away and that we would be leaving our house at 11:30 Saturday night. Because Hna. Magdalena, Gladys and I were the only ones from our neighborhood going to the retreat (the rest of people in JOMICA are going to visit Iguazú waterfalls at the end of the month and are saving money), we met up with other young people from Encarnación to take two small buses to Mayor Otaño where Primavera con Cristo was held. The plan was for people to meet at 12 and leave by 1 a.m. At 1:15/1:20 we were still waiting at the Cathedral. Although I've grown accustomed to the fact that Paraguay doesn't function on the same level of punctuality as the U.S., with my lack of sleep my “United Statesness” started to seep out as I told Magdalena that it was times like this that I missed the U.S. because if people are late they get left. After her shock, she laughed. It was at this point that I also realized why the retreats get me down. I love my sleep, and when I don't get that sleep I get cranky.

Waiting at the Cathedral.

 Another thing I didn't realize was that to get to Mayor Otaño you can only take paved roads for half of the journey. The rest is on either rock (not gravel--like brick roads but made of large pieces of rock) or dirt roads, and let me tell you, you don't get a lot of sleep driving for two and a half hours on roads like that. 

A map of where we went. Encarnación is right about Posadas.

On the upside, when we finally arrived there was chipa and milk waiting for us and a bathroom to wash our faces and brush our teeth. 

At 7:30 we began our 13 kilometer pilgrimage to the church in Mayor Otaño. It was my first pilgrimage to speak of, and I'm embarrassed to admit that even with my walking/running an average of seven miles every Saturday, the walk kicked me butt. It was at least 95 degrees out, and I wore jeans. BIG MISTAKE.  I wanted to fit in and hardly anyone wears shorts here, especially not short ones like we wear in the U.S. I learned my lesson, and for our next pilgrimage you better believe I'll be wearing my running shorts, t-shirt and sneakers even if I'm the only one. My second problem was that I didn't have any water. I had put in a new filter for my water bottle to take with me, but something wasn't working right and the filter wasn't able to prime leaving my water tasting like chemicals. Luckily (for other people) the people that lived along the route were amazing and had little tables along the street outside their houses with water, juice and even some snacks. Unfortunately for me, I had been having stomach problems again and didn’t want to chance it, forcing me to wait until we entered the town at the end of our walk to purchase a liter of water that we downed before Mass.  

Getting ready to head out on the walk.

Oh the hills...

After...if only you could see up close how much dirt is covering our faces.

At one point during the walk people riding in the back of trucks asked those of us who had negative thoughts to raise a hand for an extra prayer. I raised both. Later on, those same people began to lead the rosary. Normally this would be great, especially considering we were on a pilgrimage, but when I’m covered in red dirt, sweating and dehydrated saying the rosary in Spanish was the last thing I wanted to do. (I often find it difficult to feel something when I’m saying the rosary in Spanish anyways, so this was practically a lost cause. I guess my mind still hasn’t accepted the idea that God can understand my prayers in Spanish).

Now for the good part. In the last stretch, the Holy Spirit got through to me, and I had a much needed realization. The experience was uncomfortable and I wasn’t enjoying it, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jesus wasn’t all that comfortable up on the cross. So I guess what I’m trying to get at is that this retreat made me suffer and at the same time it made me realize that I’ve got it pretty good (you would think I wouldn’t have to be reminded of that anymore but I guess I still do) and that although it was a sacrifice, in comparison to what He went though (and some of my neighbors have been through/are going through) it was nothing, and maybe that is what I was meant to take away.

Mass was held outside the chapel in Mayor Otaño and the priest was one of my favorites, Padre Aldo. He’s a younger priest and has so much enthusiasm in his homilies that you can’t help but listen and love it. Even though he switched back and forth between Spanish and Guarani, it was just what I needed to get into better spirits. Plus, on the way home I got to see some of the countryside and farmland that I missed in the dark while we were driving in the morning. With the windows down (did I mention the bus had no A/C?) and the country and acoustic music on my iPod it almost felt like I was back in Missouri on a summer night.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Día del niño in the Capilla

As I mentioned in my previous post, Paraguay celebrates the day of the child in August, but due to rain and congreso we ended up celebrating this past Sunday. Although we were a little worried in the beginning since 10 minutes before start time we had ZERO kids (promptness and punctuality aren't really the Paraguayan style if you haven’t caught that yet), we had a great turnout.